This is an election has a lot of diverse possibilities: We’re either going to get our first female president, our first black president, or our oldest-ever president.
But beyond the mere novelty of a guaranteed “first-something” president this year, I am amazed that every candidate, despite being unique and interesting in some many individualized ways, is somehow trying to be something they aren’t — or is trying to prove things they shouldn’t have to prove. It’s as if in this soundbite-hungry media age, it’s not enough to be interesting or special. You have to give the voters more and more to satisfy them.
So Hillary Clinton seems to be trying to show that she has more testosterone than either of her male competitors by not only continuing to talk tough on Iraq and Iran but also slamming down shots with beer chasers in bars with the working-class guys and talking about her days hunting as a young lady. I am reminded of one of the early scenes in Raiders of the Lost Ark where a super-skinny woman drinks a huge Genghis Khan-looking guy under the table in some seedy bar: It just doesn’t ring true.
Meanwhile, Obama seems to still have to prove he isn’t Muslim to many Americans while simultaneously trying to distance himself from the Christian preacher who until recently was his pastor. In his attempt to be above the mud-slinging, it sometimes seems that Obama is trying too hard not to take swings, and ends up looking like someone who’s just taking hits and cannot give them out.
And then there’s John McCain, who recently visited New Orleans to try to show he’s down with black people and the plight of the poor, even though he didn’t seem to care much about the fallout from Hurricane Katrina back when people were being washed out of the city by the floodwaters.
I watch some reality TV shows, I’ll admit it. Depending on the people and the subject, I can get engaged with the drama, both natural and manufactured. But when reality TV starts to seem more honest than the presidential campaign, I start to think we’re in trouble.
I want to know who my candidates are. Maybe it’s because there is so much uniqueness in this current crop of candidates, but I was hoping to find out what they were really about this time around.
Instead, I get a message of hope from Obama, but still not enough actual policy positions and strategies for my taste. His speech on race in America was fantastic, but now I feel like I’m not hearing much new.
Clinton tells me she will be “ready on day 1,” as if she really knows how to be president just because she lived in the White House. Does that mean Chelsea is ready for Congress?
And then from McCain, I am promised the “straight-talk express,” yet the man’s staff tries to pass off other people’s recipes as being from his wife, in a bizarro attempt to make her into some kind of Susie Homemaker.
I wanted something special this year. It’s exciting, I’ll grant you. But it still feels like more of the same old, same old.
Shay Stewart-Bouley can be reached at email@example.com.